Oprah joins POTUS for three-hour birthday feast...
President Obama capped his 49th birthday with an intimate dinner on Wednesday night at graham elliot restaurant in Chicago, minus the vacationing First Lady but with close friends.
Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, longtime pals Eric Whittaker and Marty Nesbitt, and Oprah Winfrey, accompanied by Gayle King, joined the President at the River North neighborhood eatery, which promises to wow patrons with "hip music, dynamic gastronomy, and a lively and relaxed atmosphere." The President ventured into chef-owner Graham Elliot's kitchen after dinner, to meet the chef and his staff, and pose for a photo (above).
Chef Elliot (wearing the white specs and hat, and standing next to President Obama in the top photo) is beloved--and a bit controversial--in the Windy City, and bills himself as "the country's youngest four star chef." He's currently starring on Fox TV's MasterChef, and is very media savvy, but resisted tweeting during the President's 3-hour dinner. But at around 2:00 AM local time, Elliot tweeted "The GE team was humbled and honored to have the President celebrate his birthday at the restaurant tonight," and posted the photo at top of post.
A crowd of about 75 people waited in the street outside the restaurant throughout the evening, to greet the President post-dinner. He smiled and waved before getting into a waiting SUV at around 10:48 PM (above). The crowd also got a glimpse of Oprah, who is a longtime Obama family intimate and campaign backer (at left, leaving the restaurant).
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Obama and daughters Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, phoned the President with birthday greetings.
"Needless to say both those calls were the highlights of his day,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
The President landed in a rainy Chicago just after 4:30 in the afternoon, for his first visit since Memorial Day. He was greeted by local political notables, including Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Richard Daley, who presented him with gifts on the runway. After a quick visit to his Hyde Park home, the President was at graham elliot by 7:06 PM local time. (At left: The President and Jarrett arrive in Chicago)
A three-time James Beard Award nominee, as well as the "culinary director" of the Lollapalooza music fest, Elliot was also a contestant on season 2 of Top Chef Masters, and has been engaging in a war of words with a local magazine. Elliot describes his "bistronomic" approach as "jovial gastronomy."
The White House connections to Top Chef are now legion. In addition to assistant White House chef/SPAHFI Sam Kass appearing as a guest judge on Top Chef: DC for the special school lunch episode, as well as host Tom Colicchio testifying before Congress in support of child nutrition legislation (and helping the First Lady launch Chefs Move To Schools), the first-ever State Dinner Guest Chef, Chicgo/New York chef Marcus Samuelsson won season 2 of Top Chef Masters. Samulesson stars in the most recent White House food video, with Mrs. Obama and celeb chef Rachael Ray.
On Thursday evening, the President returns to Washington, after visiting a Ford auto plant and attending three more Democratic fundraisers. On deck: An evening party hosted by real estate mogul Neil Bluhm at his private home costs $30,400 to attend. In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks on behalf of Senate Candidate Alexi Giannoulias at the Palmer House Hilton. Later, the President will deliver remarks at a DNC finance event at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Info: graham elliot is at 217 West Huron Street Chicago, IL 60654-3900. Phone: (312) 624-9975.
*Chef Graham officially "lopped off" his last name, Bowles, from his professional moniker last week, the fab RB from Eater informs Ob Fo...
Birthday posts: The First Lady and daughter Sasha are on vacation in Spain today, and phoned the President with birthday wishes, as did daughter Malia. First Dog Bo accompanied the President to Chicago, after a busy (birth)day at the White House. OFA is holding "Presidential Birthday Events" for mid-term election volunteer recruitment today, and Mrs. Obama was the spokesperson for a Presidential birthday card fund raising campaign.
*Updated from first post at 9:18 PM August 4.
*Photos: Top courtesy Graham Elliot; second via Reuters; third via AP.